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Making sense of Hilton reward options [UPDATED January 2017]

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For ease of navigation, the Hilton Rewards FAQ is distributed across posts 1-10 in this thread. This wiki does not duplicate that content; instead, it provides an index to the various sections of the FAQ.
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Old Jun 13, 11, 6:43 pm
  #1
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Making sense of Hilton reward options [UPDATED January 2017]

Introduction

Over 5,000 hotels belong to the Hilton family. These include
Unlike some other hotel programs (e.g., Marriott), Hilton requires you to have enough points in your account for a given award at the time you make the reservation. If you're logged in, the Hilton website won't even show you availability for awards you can't cover. (This sometimes leads to confusion when members search for award rooms before logging in, only to have available award rooms disappear after login. This is not phantom space; it's real, but when you're logged in the website won't display it because you can't reserve it.)

I discuss each of the various Hilton room redemption options in separate posts below:
For a historical summary of certain reward options that are no longer available, see

A note about blackout dates and capacity controls


According to the HHonors terms and conditions (item #4 ),
Reward Stays are not subject to blackout dates or capacity controls, except for Points & Money Rewards™ Rewards, which are subject to both at the participating hotel's and/or Hilton HHonors [...] discretion. All Rewards depend upon availability and some Reward Stays types may not be available on the date of Member's request.
Unfortunately, beginning in the fall of 2011 Hilton allowed several properties -- including some of the most desirable desinations -- to effectively violate the "no capacity controls" rule. With the addition of Premium Room Rewards, certain Hilton hotels and resorts redesignated many of their standard rooms as premium rooms, and are charging exorbitant amounts (in some cases, double or triple the points) for these rooms. Members also report that some hotels have standard rooms available for cash purchase, but that these same rooms cannot be obtained using reward points.

This represents a significant stealth devaluation of the Hilton HHonors program. For further discussion, see

Last edited by beltway; Jun 20, 17 at 3:11 pm Reason: {#%^<
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Old Jun 13, 11, 6:53 pm
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Hilton HHonors standard rewards

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Old Jun 13, 11, 6:54 pm
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"Fifth Night Free" benefit for HHonors elites

HHonors members with elite status -- Silver, Gold, Diamond -- qualify for a "Fifth Night Free" benefit on any single reward stay of five or more consecutive nights, up to four free nights on a stay of 20 consecutive nights. (Members may obtain elite status through hotel stays or by acquiring any of the Hilton-affiliated credit cards. For more information on the benefits of HHonors status and how to earn it, see the HHonors website and the FT threads listed in the FT Hilton FAQ.) Hilton's FT liaison has stated that Fifth Night Free will continue to be available in 2017 after hotel categories are abolished.

In cases where the number of points required per night varies (for example, when a stay includes peak and off-peak nights), the point value of the free night is determined by dividing the total point cost of all nights by the number of nights in the stay. Thus, for a six-night stay in which 3 nights cost 40K each and the other 3 nights cost 30K each, the value of the free night is 35K (210K/6). In this example, the total cost for the stay would be 175K (210K - 35K discount) the cost of the last night is reduced to zero (as of Oct. 1, 2017). As a result, the benefit of the free night can now vary greatly depending on the points rate (before discount) of the last night.

Elite members need not take any extra steps to receive the benefit. Any qualifying booking receives the discount automatically. Note also that the Fifth Night Free benefit applies only to standard rooms; see the discussion at the end of post #1 concerning capacity controls.

For more information about this benefit, see the HHonors FAQand the HHonors terms & conditions.

Last edited by beltway; Oct 15, 17 at 2:31 am Reason: {#%^<
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Old Jun 13, 11, 6:56 pm
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Points & Money rewards

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Old Jun 13, 11, 6:58 pm
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Premium Room Rewards

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Old Jun 13, 11, 7:00 pm
  #6
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Room Upgrade Rewards

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Old Jun 13, 11, 7:01 pm
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Hilton Grand Vacations rewards (timeshare resorts)

Hilton's Grand Vacations Club is a set of timeshare properties in North America and Europe. These are not full-service hotel properties (i.e., no on-site restaurant), although many are situated near more conventional Hilton properties.

A subset of four HGV properties in Las Vegas offers award stays (studios only) for 35,000 points per night, bookable online.

For general discussion of Hilton Grand Vacations rewards, see Quick Hilton Grand Vacations Question.

Last edited by beltway; Jan 9, 17 at 7:16 pm
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Old Jun 13, 11, 7:50 pm
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All-Inclusive Resorts

Certain Hilton properties in Costa Rica, Mexico, Egypt, Turkey, and Jamaica are set up as all-inclusive resorts, meaning that the rates cover not only accommodations but also meals, drinks (excluding premium liquor), and various recreation activities. They are

Historically, each all-inclusive property charged an invariant number of points per night. (Put differently: although different properties cost different amounts, the cost did not vary over the course of the year.) In February 2014, however, Hilton made an unannounced change permitting all-inclusives to adopt peak/off-peak award pricing, noted above where applicable.

Note that a standard-room reward night allows accommodations for up to 2 guests. Additional guests may require extra points, depending on their ages; policies differ widely across the resorts. For complete details, see the individual property websites.

Note also, as stated in the Hilton HHonors T&C, that the Fifth Night Free benefit does not apply to award redemptions at all-inclusive properties.

All-Inclusive Resort rewards can be booked online or by calling a Hilton reservations representative.

For general discussion of All-Inclusive Resort rewards (sometimes referred to by Hilton as "Distinctive Rewards"), see these FT threads:

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Old Jun 13, 11, 9:11 pm
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Packages

Hilton currently offers a reward package at the Caribe Hilton in Puerto Rico. This is not a full travel package -- air and ground transportation are not included -- but instead a fixed-price award for three consecutive nights/two guests. The package includes free daily buffet breakfast for two and two spa treatments.

Current package pricing is 240,000 points. As noted above, a standard three-night reward at the Caribe Hilton (category 6) costs 90,000-150,000 points. Members should carefully consider whether the package amenities justify the additional cost in points. (For example, a Diamond elite is entitled to daily continental breakfast for two on any stay, including a standard reward night, at no extra cost.)

Package rewards cannot be redeemed through the HHonors website, and must instead be booked by contacting a Hilton reservations agent.

Last edited by beltway; Jan 9, 17 at 7:52 pm
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Old Jun 13, 11, 9:35 pm
  #10
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Strategies for maximizing reward value

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Old Jun 13, 11, 10:30 pm
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Hilton HHonors rewards for Hilton Amex cardholders aka AXON (DISCONTINUED)

AXON rewards were permanently discontinued on February 16, 2017.

Historical Note #1
Prior to the elimination of AXON awards, the following rules applied:
Holders of the US-based Hilton American Express cards (both the regular and Surpass versions) have an additional redemption option. In addition to receiving automatic elite status -- Gold for the Surpass card; Silver for the regular Amex -- and the corresponding VIP reward discount described above, cardholders also qualify for a separate class of rewards (AXON).

AXON rewards are available for 4-night stays at hotels in categories 5 through 10, as follows:
  • Category 5: 130,000 points
  • Category 6: 160,000 points
  • Category 7: 190,000 points
  • Category 8: 220,000 points
  • Category 9: 260,000 points
  • Category 10: 300,000 points

As with standard and Fifth Night Free rewards, AXON rewards apply only to standard rooms, and not to higher room categories. See the discussion at the end of post #1 concerning capacity controls.

For a comprehensive comparison of AXON to Fifth Night Free and standard awards, see post #10 above. Note that in many cases, AXON is more expensive than a standard reward stay.

For general discussion concerning AXON awards, see AXON Hilton HHonors Award Questions and Information: The Definitive Thread.

AXON awards cannot be booked online, and must instead be made by calling 1-800-920-5649, per the Hilton Amex terms and conditions. Note that this is the Diamond Desk, and the CSR will automatically ask for your Diamond number. Don't be thrown off; if you are not Diamond Elite, simply explain that you are calling to redeem an AXON reward stay.
Historical Note #2
Prior to 2013, the AXON pricing structure looked very different:
AXON rewards are available for 4-night stays at hotels in categories 5 through 7, as follows:
  • Category 5: 125,000 points
  • Category 6: 125,000 points
  • Category 7: 145,000 points

Inexplicably, the AXON rate for category 5 hotels is higher than the VIP reward rate: 125K vs. 119K for a VIP reward. (Inexplicably, because anyone who qualifies for AXON is by definition a Hilton elite eligible for the VIP reward, meaning that no-one should ever need or want to use the AXON5 reward rate.) However, AXON awards provide substantial discounts at category 6 and 7 hotels, as illustrated by the following chart taken from Ric Garrido's blog post:


Some members report that confirmation emails and/or online reservation records for AXON awards sometimes show the higher VIP rate instead of, or in addition to, the correct AXON point charge, although the proper amounts are deducted from their accounts. Also, as noted in the September 2011 thread http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/hilto...ging-axon.html, some American Express websites list outdated AXON point costs (i.e., showing 6 as the top HHonors category).

Last edited by beltway; Feb 16, 17 at 12:09 pm
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Old Jun 13, 11, 10:47 pm
  #12
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Point Stretcher rewards (DISCONTINUED)

Point Stretcher rewards were silently discontinued in early 2012.

Prior version of this section retained for historical purposes:
Hilton periodically offers Point Stretchers -- reward nights at a discount of 40% off standard reward rates -- for selected category 3-7 properties and dates:


To search for availability by hotel brand, use the Hilton Point Stretcher search tool. Unfortunately, there appears to be no way to search by date or city/state/country across the various Hilton brands.

As noted above (and in the HHonors terms and conditions), Point Stretcher rewards are subject to blackout dates and capacity controls.
For general discussion of Point Stretcher rewards, see the FT thread http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/hilto...ve-thread.html.

Last edited by beltway; Jan 9, 17 at 7:44 pm Reason: 2013 update
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Old Jun 13, 11, 10:56 pm
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Waldorf-Astoria Collection standard rewards (DISCONTINUED)

In 2013, Hilton incorporated Waldorf-Astoria properties into its new 10-category rewards system, eliminating the separate W-A rewards chart.

Prior version of this section retained for historical purposes:

Unlike other Hilton properties, which fall into reward categories 1 through 7, Waldorf-Astoria hotels belong to a separate, idiosyncratic grouping (with sub-groups).

For the overwhelming majority of W-A hotels, a single reward night costs 50,000 points (low season) or 60,000 points (high season). The exceptions are the Beach House Maldives (50K low/80K high) and the Grand Wailea Resort (70K low/80K high). High and low season dates vary widely across properties.

Oddly, the W-A reward chart on the HHonors website omits several properties, including
Like category 1-7 standard rewards, Waldorf-Astoria standard reward stays may be booked online through the HHonors website or by calling a Hilton reservations agent.

Last edited by beltway; Jun 18, 13 at 4:31 pm Reason: updated for 2013
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Old Jun 17, 11, 3:07 pm
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Waldorf-Astoria Collection VIP rewards for HHonors elites (DISCONTINUED)

In 2013, Hilton incorporated Waldorf-Astoria properties into its new 10-category rewards system, eliminating the separate W-A VIP rewards chart.

Prior version of this section retained for historical purposes:

Just as with category 1-7 Hilton hotels, Waldorf-Astoria properties offer elite HHonors members special discounts on reward stays of 4 nights or longer: 15% (for 4-night stays), 20% (5 nights), or 25% (6+ nights) off the standard points rewards.

Hilton does not provide any information on its website concerning W-A VIP Rewards. Copies of older W-A VIP Reward charts may be found on the Hilton UK website (for 2010) and archived on a personal website (2009). Note that these charts contain outdated information (both as to names of W-A properties and as to their classification in the W-A award structure), and should therefore be used only as historical references.

Like standard W-A rewards, VIP reward stays may be booked online through the HHonors website -- which automatically displays the discounted VIP rate if the elite member is logged in -- or by calling a Hilton reservations agent.

Last edited by beltway; Jun 18, 13 at 4:32 pm Reason: 2013 devaluation update
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Old Jun 25, 11, 7:26 am
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Thumbs up Thank you!

This is truly awesome Beltway. Started looking into Hawaii vacation a couple of weeks back -- first time i'd redeemed HHonors points in a few years, and i couldn't figure out what had happened to the old multi-hotel awards. Your summary is a huge help. Thanks!
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